Merger Update

18 May 2017

Last week the High Court accepted an application made by Woollahra Council for an appeal against the State Government’s forced amalgamation policy.

Woollahra Council argued they had been denied procedural fairness due to being refused full access to the KPMG report which forms an integral part of the Government’s policy. Woollahra also argued the delegate did not consider the financial advantages of Woollahra Council on its own, rather considering all councils together.

4 May 2017

The future of the proposed merger between Ku-ring-gai and Hornsby Councils is in doubt after the State Government failed to appeal the Courts previous decision, before the deadline. In March, the Court of Appeal ruled in favour of Ku-ring-gai Council stating that the Council had not received procedural fairness when they were denied access to two reports which form the basis of the State Government’s amalgamations policy. It remains to be seen whether the State Government will attempt to submit a late appeal.

27 April 2017

Council’s next hearing date in the Court of Land and Environment is Tuesday 2 May.

20 April 2017

The State Government narrowly held on to the seat of North Shore in last week’s election, despite a swing of 16% against the party.

Forced amalgamations may have been a deciding factor for residents, with North Sydney, Mosman and Willoughby Councils currently in court over the matter.

6 April 2017

Council’s Court of Appeal hearing (along with North Sydney, Mosman, Hunters Hill and Lane Cove councils) commenced this week and is due to be concluded by the end of the week. Council will await the associated judgment.

30 March 2017

Ku-ring-gai Council gained a reprieve this week when the Court of Appeal ruled in its favour against forced amalgamation. The Court found the council had been denied procedural fairness in regards to the State Government’s resolve to not release the KPMG Report. The KPMG Report was a pivotal justification for the Government’s merger policy.

23 March 2017

Today is the first hearing day for Council’s proceedings in the Land and Environment Court (along with Mosman and North Sydney councils) with an additional hearing day set for 29 March 2017. Council continues to be committed to fighting forced amalgamations and will update residents on any new developments.

16 March 2017

Despite the areas strong opposition to forced Council mergers, Premier Berejiklian believes it won’t be the issue that decides the North Shore by-election next month. Mosman and North Sydney Councils are currently in court fighting a merger with Willoughby Council. However, the Premier is confident the most prominent items on voter’s minds are traffic, transport and education.

10 March 2017

By-elections have been set for 8 April in North Shore, Manly and Gosford. These will be the first elections taking place since Premier Berejiklian has taken office and will be closely watched in relation to council amalgamations. Both the Manly and Gosford areas have already merged with neighbouring councils, however areas of North Shore are still in court challenging forced amalgamations.  It is anticipated that the Liberals will face severe backlash with the possibility of being unseated by an Independent in the North Shore election due to resident’s negativity towards the forced merger of Mosman, North Sydney and Willoughby Councils.

2 March 2017

March and April are set to be interesting months for the State Government’s forced amalgamations policy. Hearing dates have been set for 23 and 29 March in relation to Strathfield, North Sydney and Mosman councils’ Land and Environment Court proceedings. Hearing dates for the Court of Appeal proceedings have also been set for 3, 4 and 5 April. Residents will be kept up to date on proceedings via the eNews.

23 February 2017

State Government has extended its undertaking to Council that it will not make a recommendation to the Governor to merge Strathfield, Burwood and Canada Bay Councils before 5 April 2017. This covers the period of Council’s current proceedings.

17 February 2017

On Tuesday 14 February the NSW Cabinet met to discuss the future of forced amalgamations. They elected to abandon regional amalgamations however, are proceeding with those in the city. Councils whose mergers are currently before the courts, including Strathfield, will be merged unless they are successful in their court action. Strathfield Council is disappointed with this announcement and will continue to fight amalgamation.

Council’s submission in response to the second Delegates report is due next week, for any responses or submissions please email submissions@strathfield.nsw.gov.au for possible inclusion, by close of business Friday 17 February.

9 February 2017

Recent media reports have suggested that the new Cabinet is reviewing its position in regards to amalgamations. In a Party Room meeting of Government Members of Parliament, Ms Berejiklian emphasised she was a consultative premier and would listen before making any decisions.

2 February 2017

Premier Gladys Berejiklian has wasted no time in her new job, reshuffling her cabinet and appointing several new positions. Member for Vaucluse, The Hon. Gabrielle Upton MP has been announced as the new Minister for Local Government. Ms Upton has not yet made her current position on amalgamations known, however she has in the past shown strong vocal opposition to forced amalgamations garnering support from her electorate in a 10,000+ signature petition, in addition to activism against the merger in her council of Woollahra.

The NSW State Government is currently in discussions about the future of forced amalgamations. Council will keep you updated, and continues to review its legal options in light of any new developments regarding amalgamation.

25 January 2017

Residents will have no doubt heard of the surprise retirement of Premier Mike Baird last week. His successor, Gladys Berejiklian, has already taken office and said "I'm willing to sit down with my colleagues about that issue (council amalgamations), I've not said one way or another what I will do about it. There's no doubt that some communities would prefer they didn't go through that process."

Strathfield Council continues to review its legal options in light of any new developments regarding amalgamation.

19 January 2017

The State Government has extended the deadline for submissions in response to the revised delegates report until Friday 24 February 2017.  If residents wish to make any representations to Council for possible inclusion in Council’s submission, they must be sent to submissions@strathfield.nsw.gov.au and received by Council no later than Friday 17 February 2017.

10 January 2017

As previously announced, the Delegate for the merger proposal between Strathfield, Burwood and City of Canada Bay councils has issued a revised Delegate’s report as a result of his original report being declared invalid in earlier Land & Environment Court proceedings.

Although the Delegate’s revised report is dated September 2016, it was only made public on 21 December 2016. Council has been informed it has until the 20 January 2017 to make a submission on the revised Delegate’s Report.

Council made representations to the State Government demanding that such a tight deadline be extended given the Christmas/New Year holiday period to allow sufficient time for Council and any residents to review and respond appropriately to such a significant document. However, the State Government has now declined to extend the deadline.

Residents can review the Delegate’s revised report here.

If residents wish to make any representations to Council for possible inclusion in Council’s submission, any representations must be sent to submissions@strathfield.nsw.gov.au and received by Council no later than 15 January 2017.

22 December 2016

The State Government has given Council a deadline of 20 January 2017 to make any comments on the revised Delegate’s Report and Boundaries Commission’s comments. Council will be making representations to the State Government demanding that such a tight deadline be extended given the Christmas/New Year holiday period to allow sufficient time for Council to review and respond appropriately to such significant documents.

Any residents who wish to send comments to assist Council in its submission, please email them to submissions@strathfield.nsw.gov.au by 15 January 2017.

This week Strathfield Council lodged a GIPA application to the Office of Local Government and Department of Premier and Cabinet to obtain any revised Delegate’s Report on the State Government’s merger proposal for Strathfield, Burwood and Canada Bay councils. Council also initiated proceedings in both the Court of Appeal and Land & Environment Court in relation to the amalgamation.

Council has now received correspondence that a revised Delegate’s Report dated September 2016 is now available on the State Government’s Stronger Councils.

A subsequent review of the website revealed that the revised Delegate’s Report was only uploaded on 20 December 2016, despite the Report being dated September 2016.

15 December 2016

Strathfield Council continues to review its legal options in light of any new developments regarding amalgamation.

The Community has told us you do not support forced Council amalgamations. Any decision to abolish Council should be the decision of the Strathfield Community.

8 December 2016

Mosman Council briefly appeared in the Court of Appeal on 7 December 2016 in relation to its appeal of the original judgement by His Honour Justice Moore in relation to amalgamation. A hearing date has been set for 3 and 4 April 2017 for their appeal.

Strathfield Council continues to review its legal options in light of these new developments.

1 December 2016

Local elections may be postponed for years whilst the merge of several councils remain unresolved. Fourteen councils, including Strathfield, delayed elections in 2016 and unless the amalgamation issue is resolved before August 2017, elections cannot be held until September 2019. This date coincides with the State Government elections, a clash which could result in a further delay until 2020.

Strathfield Council continues to review its legal options in light of any new developments regarding amalgamation.

24 November 2016

Amalgamation remains at the forefront of issues local Councils face, with newly merged Inner West and Bayside Councils suffering growing pains. Inner West Council meetings are regularly picketed by irate residents angry over the merger, while the Bayside Council is facing the almost impossible task of bringing the Council in line with Premier Mike Baird’s plan in time for the September 2017 elections.

Strathfield Council continues to review its legal options in light of any new developments regarding amalgamation.

17 November 2016

Premier Mike Baird says he will continue to pursue the state's council amalgamation agenda following the Nationals' disastrous showing in the Orange by-election on Saturday.

Strathfield Council continues to review its legal options in light of any new developments regarding amalgamation.

Submission to Council Boundary Review

Strathfield Council submission to the Council Boundary Review was endorsed by Council on 23 February 2016.  

Click here for a copy of the Council submission.

Merger Proposal - Strathfield, Burwood and Canada Bay

On 6 January 2016 the Minister for Local Government referred 35 merger proposals to the Chief Executive of the Office of Local Government for examination and report under the Local Government Act 1993.

In summary, the Government has proposed a reduction in the total number of Councils across NSW from 152 to 122 and in metropolitan Sydney a reduction from 43 to 25. No Sydney Council is forecast to have a population of less than 150,000.

The Minister has proposed the merger of Strathfield, Burwood and Canada Bay Councils. The proposed merged Council has a population of 163,000 which is estimated to grow to more than 209,000 by 2031. In addition, the NSW Government is providing up to $15 million to invest in community infrastructure and $10 million to partially offset the upfront costs of merging.

Click here to view flyer. 

Map Burwood Strathfield CanadaBay

 Additional matters associated with the reform process include:

  • For four years after the new merged council is created, the Government’s policy is that the rates charged by the new council will be no more than the rates the existing councils would have charged
  • IPART has been commissioned to review the rating system, and has been requested to advise on the best way to achieve the policy commitment on freezing rates as part of the rating review. IPART will provide its report to the Government by end 2016
  • That the Government will commence consultation on proposed amendments to the Local Government Act, including previously announced changes such as two-year terms for mayors and new financial intervention powers

The detailed merger proposals have been finalised and referred to the Chief Executive of the Office of Local Government for examination and report. The process is detailed below.

Merger Proposal process

On 6 January 2016 the Minister for Local Government referred merger proposals to the Chief Executive of the Office of Local Government for examination and report under the Local Government Act 1993. Each proposal document contains information about the impacts and benefits of the proposed merger.

  1. The Chief Executive of the Office of Local Government has formally delegated the examination of merger proposals under the Local Government Act 1993 to Delegates. The Delegate dealing with the merger proposal for Strathfield, Burwood and Canada Bay Councils is Mr Richard Colley.
  2. Communities will have a chance to have their say during a public consultation process for merger proposals, including through submissions and at public hearings.
  3. Local Government Boundaries Commission membership is confirmed.
  4. Delegates examine proposals, including reviewing public submissions, and after having regard to the factors listed in the Local Government Act 1993 provide a report to the Minister.
  5. Delegates will also provide their reports to the Boundaries Commission who will review and comment on the reports.
  6. Boundaries Commission provides its comments on the Delegates’ reports to the Minister for Local Government.
  7. Minister for Local Government considers the reports from the Delegates and comments on those reports from the Boundaries Commission, and makes a decision for each proposal.
  8. The Minister may or may not recommend to the Governor of NSW that the proposed merger be implemented.
  9. New councils commence.

The consultation period for all merger proposals has commenced and submissions will be received up until 5pm on Sunday 28 February 2016.

Issues for consideration - Wards

Should the State Government ignore the communities’ views and push ahead with amalgamation, the number of Councillors and whether the new council is divided into wards will be determined by the State Government. Below are two possible scenarios that could occur in the newly merged council:

Undivided Area

If we assume 9 Councillors are elected by all residents.

undivided area

Wards

If we assume 3 wards with an equal amount of councillors are elected for each ward by residents of that ward. 

wards

Make a submission

A public meeting will also be conducted by the Delegate Mr Richard Colley during the consultation period, and further information on the timing of this meeting is expected to be provided in mid-January 2016.

The NSW Government’s merger proposal for Strathfield Council, including how the community can contribute to the consultation process can be found at www.councilboundaryreview.nsw.gov.au.


History of the Amalgamation Process

Have your say

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The NSW Government is demanding amalgamations of Sydney's Councils.  

They recommended Strathfield Council amalgamate with Ashfield, Burwood, Canada Bay, Leichhardt and Marrickville to create an Inner West Super Council.  Councils such as Auburn are also seeking to amalgamate with Strathfield. Neighbouring Councils such as Bankstown have lodged proposals to transfer Strathfield land to them.

Strathfield Council has been assessed as financially sustainable. The NSW Government has presented no compelling evidence of why Strathfield Council should amalgamate or how amalgamating will benefit Strathfield residents. 

Strathfield residents have overwhelmingly told us that they DO NOT want to amalgamate or have parts of Strathfield transferred to other Councils.  Amalgamations or boundary changes will result in increased rates, loss of local identity and sense of community, loss of representation, sale of assets and declines in services, and we could be taking on other councils’ debts. 


Parliamentary Inquiry into Fit for Future Reforms

The NSW Legislative Council published its final report on 29 October 2015 from the Parliamentary Inquiry into the ‘Fit for the Future’ reforms.

The committee’s report, along with other information about the inquiry, is available on the committee’s website: www.parliament.nsw.gov.au/localgovernment.  An Executive Summary is also available.  Strathfield Council's made a submission to the inquiry. 

The report makes 17 recommendations and nine findings. The Chair of the committee, the Hon Paul Green MLC, said ‘We found that many of the Fit for the Future measures are unreliable and we therefore called on the NSW Government to withdraw its statements that 71 per cent of Sydney councils and 56 per cent of regional councils are ‘unfit’ for the future. We also recommended that the Government commit to a policy of no forced amalgamations other than in exceptional circumstances.’

Mr Green continued, ‘This committee has listened to councils and other stakeholders around the state and we were concerned that what began as a consultative approach to reform, driven by both the State Government and the sector itself, has descended into a rushed and flawed process, which has focused too much on council amalgamations.’

‘Reforming local government is nothing new, but it is vital that we get the right reforms at the right time and in the right order, if we want to get this sector back on track. We’ve seen how committed councils are to their communities and we know that they are keen to keep improving. The Government needs to build a bridge and get back to working with the sector, so that councils across this state can keep on building the bridges we need, maintaining the roads we use and providing all of the other services that our councils deliver.’ ‘I call on the NSW Government to take heed of our report and reconsider its plans for the future of local government before any steps are taken in relation to council amalgamations,’ concluded Mr Green.


Strathfield Council organised an Anti-Amalgamation Rally - 12 noon, Saturday 10th October 2015 at Strathfield Town Centre

Strathfield Council convened a public rally against forced Council amalgamations.  All members of the community were encouraged to attend.  Speeches started at 12 noon. 

Anti-Amalgamation Flyer - English Anti-Amalgamation Flyer - Hindi Anti-Amalgamation Flyer - Tamil
Anti-Amalgamation Flyer - Korean Anti-Amalgamation Flyer - Chinese  

Local Government Reform - Background

In March 2012 the Minister for Local Government announced the establishment of an Independent Local Government Review Panel which was tasked with exploring options for governance models, structural arrangements and boundary changes for councils in NSW. Over a two year period, the Panel held three rounds of consultations with NSW councils and produced three separate reports. Strathfield Council provided submissions to each stage of this process

Amalgamation proposals involving Strathfield Council

The final report to the NSW Government in October 2013 proposed amalgamating Strathfield Council with Ashfield, Burwood, Canada Bay, Leichhardt and Marrickville Councils as its preferred option.

The proposed ‘mega council’ would bring together a population of over 350,000 residents (and over 460,000 by 2031) - an average increase of around 300% in the current populations of the inner west Council areas.  The Council would stretch from Sydney Airport to Homebush and Glebe.

In September 2014 the NSW Government responded to the Panel’s proposals supporting amalgamation of the six Inner West Councils and in October 2014, released its Fit for the Future reform program which sets out assessment criteria to determine whether Council is 'fit' or 'unfit'.  This criteria includes financial benchmarks but also address threshold criteria of 'scale and capacity'. 

Information on Council's community consultation and options for Fit for the Future are attached.

Council's submission on Fit for the Future

On 30 June 2015, Strathfield Council made a submission to IPART, who have been appointed by the NSW Government as an expert advisory panel. A copy of the submission and attachments is listed below:

Submission to IPART - Fit for the Future

Attachment A - Scale and Capacity

Attachment B - Community Engagement

Attachment C - Financial Report - Morrison Low consultancy

Attachment D - Cost Containment Strategies

Submissions to Fit for the Future 

Council submissions to IPART closed on 31 July 2015.  An information pack sets out Council's position and provides information on the submission process. 

A copy of Council's proposal and the public submissions received by IPART can be read here.

Strathfield Council made the following submissions:

  • Bankstown Council Fit for the Future submission - proposal for boundary changes affecting Strathfield Council boundaries 'south of Cooks River'.  Read Council's submission
  • Auburn Council - Burwood Council - Canada Bay Council merger proposal - comments on the merger proposal. Read Council's submission
  • Parramatta Council Fit for the Future submission - proposal to expand Parramatta Council boundaries for land 'west of Homebush Bay Drive'. Read Council's submission

IPART will assess the Council submissions and provide the Minister for Local Government and the Premier with a final report by October 2015 identifying whether or not each council is Fit for the Future and outline the reasons for this assessment. The assessments will be publicly released following Cabinet approval.

Councils will then be required to make the transition to a new structure by September 2016 or implement an improvement plan, subject to the approval of the NSW Government.